Italian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen fastest in first practice at Monza

Lando Norris in his McLaren during first practice for the Italian Grand Prix
McLaren’s Lando Norris was seventh in practice one

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen achieved his quest for a record 10th consecutive win after a solid start to the Italian Grand Prix.

The championship leader set the pace in first practice at the Monza circuit, 0.046 seconds ahead of Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz.

Their teammates Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc finished third and fourth.

Mercedes’ George Russell and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso completed the top six.

Alonso was the only driver among the top six to use the medium tyres. Everyone was in a difficult complex.

McLaren’s Lando Norris, who set his best time on the soft tyres, was seventh, ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri and Alex Albon of Williams.

Williams was one of two teams alongside Ferrari that Alonso has nominated to lead the pack this weekend behind dominant Red Bull, who have won every race so far this season.

“Two teams will stand out here (according to our numbers). One will be Williams with the top speed he has shown during the season, and the other will be Ferrari because, like in Canada, it is long,” said Alonso. Straights, short turns, cornering – anything like that, it’s very fast.

“So I think these two teams will be the biggest challenge for us in terms of competitiveness and they can compete for the podium between them,” he added.

Perez was 0.177 seconds behind the leader, and 0.132 seconds behind Leclerc.

Verstappen looked as bossy as ever as he got down to business calling his Red Bull at the fastest circuit on the calendar, the fastest from the moment he stepped onto the track.

Last weekend in the Netherlands, the Dutchman equaled the record of nine consecutive Formula 1 victories set by Sebastian Vettel in 2013 and is a strong favorite to win again on Sunday. Verstappen has won 11 of the 13 races this season, while Perez has won the other two.

It was a generally quiet session, but a challenging start to the weekend for Alfa Romeo, the Sauber team in the last Italian Grand Prix that has been running under the name of the historic Italian car marque.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were delayed at the start of the session when the cars encountered anti-stop problems.

Once out on track, Bottas complained that the car was “undrivable” as a result of the aerodynamic stall, while Cho complained of high-speed kick. After making changes to the settings, they were back on the track and Bottas said the car felt better.

He ended up 15th-fastest, with Zhou 20th and last.

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